Posts Tagged ‘Vietnamese’

50 years after key Vietnam battles, Mattis seeks closer ties with Vietnamese

January 22, 2018

 

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WASHINGTON: A half-century after the Tet Offensive punctured American hopes of victory in Vietnam, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting the former enemy in search of a different kind of win: incremental progress as partners in a part of the world the Pentagon has identified as vital for the United States to compete with China and Russia.
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Mattis, a retired general who entered the Marine Corps during Vietnam but did not serve there, arrived in Indonesia on Monday where he’ll spend two days before visiting Hanoi for talks with senior government and military leaders.
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By coincidence, Mattis will be in Vietnam just days before the 50th anniversary of the communist offensive on Jan. 30-31, 1968, when North Vietnam attacked an array of key objectives in the South, including the city of Hue, a former imperial capital and cultural icon on the Perfume River. At the time, Mattis was a senior at Columbia High School in Richland, Washington. The following year he joined the Marine Corps Reserves.
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The Tet Offensive gave the North an important boost, even though it ultimately was a military failure. It collapsed an air of confidence among US leaders that they would soon win a favorable peace agreement.
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Looking ahead to 1968, the top US commander in Vietnam at the time, Gen. William Westmoreland, famously declared in a speech in Washington in November 1967 that the war was about to enter a phase “when the end begins to come into view.”
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The fighting dragged on for seven more years, fueling US street protests and convulsing American politics, before the North prevailed and the last Americans evacuated in 1975.
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The former enemies have gradually set aside their wartime differences, in part out of shared concern about China’s growing military power and more assertive position in the South China Sea. The Trump administration sees Vietnam as a partner in opposing China’s assertion of territorial claims in the South China Sea, including the Spratlys, an island chain where Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei also have claims.
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Mattis said he didn’t expect the war to come up in his talks in Vietnam.
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“That largely has been made a matter of the past,” he said aboard his flight to Asia.
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Despite the passage of time, the legacy of the US war is never far from the surface.
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The countries didn’t normalize relations until 1995. It took another two decades before Washington fully lifted a ban on selling deadly weapons to Vietnam. The Vietnamese have largely embraced the new partnership as they’ve sought to diversify diplomatic and security relations in the region, fearing Chinese primacy. Vietnam fought a border war with China in 1979, and bitterness runs deep.
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The current crop of top US generals is too young to have served in Vietnam. The last chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to have been a Vietnam veteran was Adm. Mike Mullen, who served aboard a Navy destroyer in 1969 that provided fire support for American and South Vietnamese ground forces near Da Nang. The only secretary of defense to have fought in Vietnam was Chuck Hagel, wounded in 1968. He served as Pentagon chief from 2013-2015.
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But the war isn’t a relic of history at the Pentagon. An obscure office, the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency, still directs efforts to find and identify remains of Americans killed in Vietnam. Decades of searches still haven’t accounted for more than 1,200 people. An additional 350 are missing in Laos, Cambodia and China, the Pentagon says. Mattis may visit POW-MIA accounting representatives during his visit.
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Mattis has shown interest in some of the unfinished business of Vietnam, too. Last month, he approved giving a Medal of Honor to a Marine for valorous actions in a counter-offensive to retake Hue. A Marine gunnery sergeant at the time, John Canley of Oxnard, California, had been awarded the Navy Cross for heroic action, including rescuing wounded Marines from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968.
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Hue and the Tet Offensive remain a powerful symbol of the war for Americans of that generation; an Associated Press photograph by Eddie Adams of a Vietnamese officer executing a Viet Cong suspect on a street in Saigon on the second day of the Tet Offensive was a rallying cry for US war protesters and is still an iconic symbol of the conflict.
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Mattis is the latest in a string of Pentagon chiefs who’ve visited Vietnam to expand security ties and address China’s growing military power.
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Ash Carter made the last visit in June 2015, marking two decades of relations and announcing the Pentagon would assign a peacekeeping expert to the US Embassy in Hanoi to help the Vietnamese Defense Ministry prepare for its first deployment on a UN peacekeeping mission. Leon Panetta and his Vietnamese counterpart exchanged personal items from soldiers lost in the war three years earlier.
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Mattis has never been to Vietnam. During the war, he attended what was then known as Central Washington State College, graduating in 1972, and earned his commission as a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps. He rose in the ranks through 41 years on active duty, capping his career as the four-star commander of US Central Command. He had been retired three years when President Donald Trump picked him to lead the Pentagon.
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Singapore charges three more suspects in Shell refinery oil heist

January 13, 2018

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A Singapore court on Saturday charged three men suspected of involvement in large-scale oil theft at Shell’s biggest refinery, days after bringing charges against 11 under an extensive probe by authorities in the city state.

The Singapore subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell Plc first contacted the authorities in August 2017 about theft at its Pulau Bukom industrial site, just south of the country’s main island.

Police have seized millions of dollars in cash and a small tanker in the sting operation involving simultaneous raids across Singapore, one of the world’s most important oil trading centers and a major refinery hub.

Earlier this week, a Singapore court charged 11 men including eight Shell employees and two Vietnamese nationals related to the theft following a weekend raid arresting 17 people.

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But the charges leveled against three additional suspects on Saturday have entangled Sentek Marine & Trading Pte, one of Singapore’s biggest marine fuel suppliers, and the investigation found that one of two vessels used to transport the stolen oil products was managed by the firm.

Sentak Marine said in a statement two of the three suspects had been employees, one a marketing and operations manager and the other a cargo officer. It said both had been dismissed.

The role of the third, a Vietnamese national, was not immediately disclosed by the court or the companies. A Shell spokeswoman said none of the men charged on Saturday was an employee of the company.

The three are accused of receiving stolen property, with a combined value of S$896,444 ($676,510.45), at Pulau Bukom site, where Shell has its largest refinery, according to court documents.

The amount of oil products involved in the theft on two days in late 2017 were in addition to more than 4,300 tonnes of gasoil valued at S$2.4 million specified in charges brought against other 11 suspects on Tuesday.

Court documents listed two vessels used in the transfer of stolen oil products on Nov. 11 and Dec. 31 at two wharfs at Pulau Bukom.

Sentek 26, which carries a Singapore flag, and MT Gaea have been traveling around the city state over the last 30 days, both making one journey down to the Indonesian island of Batam in late December, Thomson Reuters data shows.

The manager of the ship Sentek 26, Sentek Marine & Trading, was the biggest bunker fuel supplier in Singapore by volume last year, according to official data. Singapore is the world’s biggest marine refueling stop.

Illicit oil trading is widespread in Southeast Asia where stolen fuel is sold across the region, often offloaded directly into trucks or tanks at small harbors away from oil terminals.

Reporting by John Geddie, additional reporting by Roslan Khasawneh and Florence Tan; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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The Salvation of ‘Napalm Girl’

December 23, 2017

I still need treatment for the burns on my arms, back and neck. But my heart is healed.

A stained glass window in the cathedral of Brussels.
A stained glass window in the cathedral of Brussels. PHOTO: ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

You may not recognize me now, but you almost certainly know who I am. My name is Kim Phuc, though you likely know me by another name. It is one I never asked for, a name I have spent a lifetime trying to escape: “Napalm Girl.”

You have probably seen my picture a thousand times. Yes, that picture. The image that made the world gasp. Some called it a turning point in the Vietnam War—a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of me in 1972, age 9, running along a puddled roadway in front of an expressionless soldier. I was photographed with arms outstretched, naked and shrieking in pain and fear, with the dark contour of a napalm cloud billowing in the distance.

My own people had dropped bombs on Route 1 in an effort to cut off the trade routes for the Viet Cong rebels. I had not been targeted. I had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Those bombs have caused me immeasurable pain over the course of my life. Forty-five years later I am still receiving treatment for the burns that cover my arms, back and neck. But even worse than the physical pain was the emotional and spiritual pain. For years I bore the crippling weight of anger, bitterness and resentment toward those who caused my suffering. Yet as I look back over a spiritual journey that has spanned more than three decades, I realize the same bombs that caused so much pain and suffering also brought me to a place of great healing. Those bombs led me to Jesus Christ.

My salvation experience occurred on Christmas Eve. It was 1982. I was attending a special worship service at a small church in Vietnam. The pastor, Ho Hieu Ha, delivered a message many Christians would find familiar: Christmas is not about the gifts we carefully wrap and place under a tree. Rather, it is about the gift of Jesus Christ, who was wrapped in human flesh and given to us by God. As the pastor spoke, I knew in my heart that something was shifting inside of me.

A decade removed from the defining tragedy of my life, I still desperately needed peace. I had so much hatred and bitterness in my heart. Yet I was ready for love and joy. I wanted to let go of my pain. I wanted to pursue life instead of holding fast to fantasies of death. When Pastor Ho finished speaking, I stood up, stepped out into the aisle, and made my way to the front of the sanctuary to say “yes” to Jesus Christ.

When I woke up that Christmas morning, I experienced my first-ever heartfelt celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I know what it is like to experience terror, to feel despondent, to live in fear. I know how wearying and hopeless life can be sometimes. After years in the spiritual wilderness, I felt the kind of healing that can only come from God.

I had spent so much of my life running—first from the bombs and the war, then from communist Vietnam. I had always assumed that to flee was my only choice. Looking back, I understand the path I had been racing along led me straight to God. Today I live at ease. Yes, my circumstances can still be challenging. But my heart is 100% healed.

My faith in Jesus Christ is what has enabled me to forgive those who had wronged me—no matter how severe those wrongs were. Faith also inspired me to pray for my enemies rather than curse them. It enabled me not only to tolerate those who had wronged me but to love them.

No matter what type of pain or sorrow you may be experiencing, as Christmas approaches, I encourage you not to give up. Hold fast to hope. It is hope that will see you through. This peace I have found can be yours as well. I pray that it finds you this Christmas.

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Ms. Kim is the author of “Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace” (Tyndale Momentum, 2017). She lives in the Toronto area.

Appeared in the December 22, 2017, print edition.

Vietnamese Blogger Gets 7 Years in Jail for Reporting on Toxic Spill

November 28, 2017

BANGKOK — A chemical spill that devastated the coast of central Vietnam last year claimed another casualty on Monday when a 22-year-old blogger was sentenced to seven years in prison for posting reports on the disaster.

After a brief, closed trial in Ha Tinh Province, the blogger, Nguyen Van Hoa, was found guilty of spreading anti-state propaganda for producing videos and writing about protests over the toxic spill, news agencies reported.

The discharge, which occurred when a new Taiwan-owned steel factory flushed cyanide and other chemicals through its waste pipeline, killed marine life and sickened people along a 120-mile stretch of coastline. It is one of Vietnam’s largest environmental disasters.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, denounced the verdict. “The sentencing of Nguyen Van Hoa shows how profoundly the government’s paranoid desire to maintain political control trumps notions of justice and human rights,” he said.

He added: “How else can one explain that executives of an international firm that poisoned the ocean, ruining the coastal economy in four provinces, are free to go about their business while this idealistic young journalist is heading to prison for helping expose their misdeeds?”

In June, a court sentenced another blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known as Mother Mushroom, to 10 years in prison, also for blogging about the fish kill.

Initially, the government provided little information about the spill, withholding the names of the toxic agents even from poisoning victims and the doctors who were treating them.

The company, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, a subsidiary of the giant Formosa Plastics Group, was eventually found to be responsible for the spill. It was ordered to pay $500 million for causing the catastrophe, and company officials apologized.

Critics accused the government of attempting to protect the company, which they said had received a special deal from officials when acquiring prime coastal property for the factory.

The toxic spill deprived coastal fishermen of their livelihoods and set off major protests along the central coast, which is unusual in tightly controlled Vietnam.

Mr. Hoa, who was arrested in April, is one of a growing number of activists in Vietnam who use Facebook and other online platforms to post videos, photographs and commentary that are contrary to the government’s official position.

Hong Kong, Singapore key centres of trafficking ring sending thousands of Filipino helpers to Russia

November 16, 2017

Senior Philippine official says domestic helpers lured to take up bogus jobs in Russia, Brazil and Turkey

By Billy SK Wong
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 11:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 9:21am

Hong Kong has been a top breeding ground for job recruitment frauds as thousands of Filipino domestic helpers in the city have been trafficked to countries like Russia, Brazil and Turkey for bogus jobs, a senior Philippine official told the Post on Wednesday.

Over 4,000 undocumented Filipinos were currently working in Russia, most of them former Hong Kong domestic helpers transiting through the city, the senior official said, citing statistics from the Philippine embassy in Moscow. He was speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official added that some cases of trafficking from the city to Russia dated back seven years and that Filipinos from other places like Singapore and Taipei were also involved.

Jalilo Dela Torre, labour attaché at the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, confirmed the situation and said some Hong Kong-registered recruitment agents had promised domestic helpers high-paying jobs in Moscow and lured them into breaking their contracts with employers in the city before arranging flights to Moscow.

“The intermediaries would pocket agency fees of HK28,000 to HK$43,000. Almost all victims would borrow the amount from financial institutions or even loan sharks,” Dela Torre said.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong chairwoman Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said most Hong Kong helpers would get loans to pay agency and training fees totalling up to HK$15,000 when they first came to the city. Victims of human-trafficking were therefore already in debt while the lucrative jobs they were promised never came to fruition, she said.

 Filipino workers sitting on the streets on a Sunday around Hong Kong. Photo: Dickson Lee

The plight of trafficked domestic helpers came to light as Manila imposed a three-week ban on the export of labour by suspending the issue of overseas employment certificates, which are needed by those wishing to work overseas.

The Philippine labour and employment department announced the ban last Friday, citing “persistent reports of illegal recruitment” and “pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos.”

Dela Torre said: “When the victims first came to Hong Kong, they probably didn’t have the intention to go to Russia. They were usually approached on Facebook or social media to take up bogus jobs in Russia.”

He said he had recently received complaints from four former domestic helpers from Hong Kong who claimed to have been tricked into working in Russia.

They were usually approached on Facebook or social media to take up bogus jobs in Russia
JALILO DELA TORRE, LABOUR ATTACHÉ AT THE PHILIPPINE CONSULATE IN HONG KONG

Dang, which is not her real name and who is currently in Moscow, was one of the complainants. She told the Post on Wednesday a local employment agent deceived her into going to Russia in 2011 for a domestic helper job that was supposed to pay several times more than she was getting in Hong Kong. But it turned out she only got a job that paid about the same as in the city and therefore fell into debt.

“Even if I want to go back home to the Philippines or to Hong Kong, it’s impossible because we need first to pay all the debts [incurred] in applying to go to Russia,” Dang said.

“That’s why maybe it’s much better for me to stay and work illegally for a few more years until my children finish their studies [in the Philippines] and pay all our debts and save a little money that I can use when I go back home,” she said.

 Dang, as she preferred to be called, said she was deceived into going to Russia for a job that never existed. Photo: Handout

Matt Friedman, the chief executive officer of the Mekong Club, a human-trafficking watchdog, said recruitment agents would fabricate job offers tailored to a victim’s preference.

“They would prey on vulnerable domestic helpers who might want more money or better jobs, for example as a social worker or teacher, ” Friedman said.

“They were made to believe they could easily repay the debts from agency fees … and would eventually be held in a foreign country to repay them.”

“It’s the first time I’ve heard the Philippine consulate confirming the situation … which has been discussed in the NGO community for years,” he said.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong staged a rally outside the Philippine consulate in Admiralty on Wednesday, demanding compensation for outbound workers affected by the labour export ban in their home country.

Balladares-Pelaez said an estimated 75,000 outgoing workers seeking employment worldwide would be stuck in limbo with no income. She accused the Philippine government of seeking to curtail illegal recruitment at the expense of outgoing workers.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said: “Upon receipt of complaints, the Labour Department will [initiate] investigations promptly on suspected overcharging by employment agencies. It will also refer the case to police for investigation on the fraud aspect.”

 http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/community/article/2120103/thousands-hong-kongs-filipino-workers-fall-victim-overseas

In Vietnam, Trump offers to mediate on South China Sea

November 12, 2017

Reuters

HANOI (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he was prepared to mediate between claimants to the South China Sea, where five countries contest China’s sweeping claims to the busy waterway.

Trump was speaking in Vietnam, which has become the most vocal opponent of China’s claims and its construction and militarization of artificial islands in the sea. About $3-trillion in goods passes through the sea each year.

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U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang, right, attend the welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. (Kham/Pool Photo via AP) The Associated Press

“If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know,” Trump said in comments at a meeting in Hanoi with Vietnam’s president, Tran Dai Quang.

Trump acknowledged that China’s position on the South China Sea was a problem.

“I‘m a very good mediator and arbitrator,” he said.

President Quang said Vietnam believed in handling disputes on the South China Sea through peaceful negotiations and on the basis of international laws – which Vietnam says nullify China’s claims.

Vietnam has reclaimed land around reefs and islets, but on nowhere near the same scale as China. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims in the sea.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has grown closer to China, Vietnam has emerged as China’s main challenger in the region. In July, China pressured Vietnam to stop oil drilling in a disputed area, taking relations to a low.

Relations have since improved and Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Hanoi later on Sunday.

The South China Sea was discussed in Beijing on an earlier leg of Trump’s 12-day Asian tour and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States and China had a frank exchange of views.

Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang and U.S. President Donald Trump prepare to address a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The United States has angered China with freedom of navigation patrols close to Chinese-controlled islands.

CODE OF CONDUCT

In August, foreign ministers of Southeast Asia and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, a move they hailed as progress but one seen by critics as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its power.

The framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven man-made islands in disputed waters, three of them equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.

All parties say the framework is only an outline for how the code will be established and critics raise doubts about how effective the pact will be.

The framework will be endorsed by China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a summit in Manila on Monday, a diplomat from one of the regional bloc’s countries said.

The next step is for ASEAN and China to start formal consultations and negotiations for the actual Code of Conduct, and the earliest that talks on this can start is February 2018, the diplomat said.

From Vietnam, Trump flies to the Philippines for a meeting with ASEAN leaders before he heads back to Washington.

Relations between Vietnam and the United States have blossomed in the decades since their war ended in 1975. A recent survey put the favorability of the United States at 84 percent among Vietnamese.

But Vietnam’s trade surplus remains an irritant for the Trump administration. At $32 billion last year, it was the sixth largest with the United States, though less than a tenth the size of China‘s.

“We want to get that straightened out very quickly,” Trump said at a meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Vietnam, in a Bind, Tries to Chart a Path Between U.S. and China

November 11, 2017

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam’s full-on war with the United States lasted a decade. Its tensions with its northern neighbor, China, have persisted for thousands of years — from a millennium of direct Chinese rule and a bloody border war in 1979 to more recent confrontations in the South China Sea.

If geography is destiny, then the fate of Vietnam is to be an expert in bargaining with Beijing and balancing between superpowers.

So with the rest of the world struggling to reckon with China’s assertive moves in the Pacific, the Vietnamese, hosts of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, are offering guidance.

“I would like to give advice to the whole world, and especially to the United States, that you must be careful with China,” said Maj. Gen. Le Van Cuong, the retired director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security.

Like any good Communist soldier, General Cuong pays attention to the details of leaders’ abstruse speeches, and he noted that President Xi Jinping of China had referred to his homeland’s status as a “great” or “strong power” 26 times in a lengthy address last month.

“Xi Jinping’s ambitions are dangerous for the whole world,” General Cuong said. “China uses its money to buy off many leaders, but none of the countries that are its close allies, like North Korea, Pakistan or Cambodia, have done well. Countries that are close to America have done much better. We must ask: Why is this?”

As with other Southeast Asian nations acutely aware that they are positioned in China’s backyard, Vietnam is worried about American inattention.

In the name of halting Communism, the United States once sent troops to Indochina and propped up dictators elsewhere in Asia. But the American-devised security landscape also created a stable environment in which regional economies expanded.

A furniture factory in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. “As Vietnamese, we are always trying to find a way to balance China’s power,” said Nguyen Ngoc Anh, a professor at the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi. Credit Christian Berg for The New York Times

Now, Mr. Trump’s decision to take the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which would have given 11 other economies an alternative to a Chinese-led economic order, has left the Vietnamese feeling vulnerable.

“As Vietnamese, we are always trying to find a way to balance China’s power,” said Nguyen Ngoc Anh, a professor at the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi. “For us, TPP isn’t just an economic issue. It’s also about geopolitics and social issues.”

Ms. Anh noted that local liberals had cheered the trade pact because it would have forced Vietnam to adhere to international labor and government accountability standards that Hanoi might otherwise not meet.

With the 11 other members of the pact still hashing out if they can proceed without the United States, Washington’s withdrawal — not to mention Mr. Trump’s “America First” speech at the APEC meeting on Friday — leaves some nations wondering if their best option may be Chinese-backed trade pacts and financing deals that have fewer guarantees for workers and less official transparency.

“We are both Communist countries, but people like me in Vietnam don’t want to develop the same way that China has,” said Ms. Anh, who studied economics in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia. “We want to follow the Western-oriented way.”

While the United States is the largest market for Vietnamese exports, Vietnam’s biggest trading partner is China. Yet Vietnam runs a significant trade deficit with its populous neighbor, and Vietnamese economists worry that China doesn’t play fairly.

“China is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t observe international law in many areas,” said Le Dang Doanh, an influential economist who has advised members of the Vietnamese Politburo on trade.

The Vietnamese watched in alarm last year when Beijing reacted to an international tribunal’s dismissal of China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea by ignoring — and even mocking — the judgment. Vietnam and four other governments have claims of their own on the resource-rich waterway that conflict with China’s.

It is hard to overstate the level of Vietnamese antipathy toward China. In a country where public protest is rare and risky, some of the few large-scale demonstrations in Vietnam in recent years have been against the Chinese.

But this national aversion puts Vietnam’s leadership in a bind. It cannot ignore China’s growing economic magnetism. For many members of APEC, China now ranks as their No. 1 trading partner.

In return for investment and project financing — roads, railways, dams, airports and colossal government buildings — leaders of regional economies are increasingly doing Beijing’s bidding.

Cambodia and Laos have given crucial support for Beijing’s South China Sea claims. Thailand has complied with Beijing’s demand that it return Chinese dissidents who once counted on it as a haven.

Even the Philippines has appeared to yield, despite the fact it lodged the successful South China Sea suit at The Hague. Days before Mr. Trump’s visit to Manila this Sunday, it disclosed that President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered construction halted on a disputed sandbar in the South China Sea, a move widely regarded as intended to placate Beijing.

Since taking office last year, Mr. Duterte has deemed the era of American military and economic pre-eminence over, and has called China his country’s best and faithful friend. He has been rewarded with billions of dollars in infrastructure investment from Beijing.

“The U.S. has been playing catch-up to China’s charm offensive since the turn of the new century,” said Tang Siew Mun, who heads the Southeast Asia center at the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, a think tank in Singapore.

Vietnam, more than any other country, has grown practiced at divining when not to challenge the two Pacific powers — both of which it fought within the last half-century.

People exchanging Vietnamese dong and Chinese renminbi near Vietnam’s border with China. While the United States is the largest market for Vietnamese exports, Vietnam’s biggest trading partner is China. Credit Linh Pham/Getty Images

In the 1970s and 1980s, China seized spits of land in the South China Sea that Vietnam had controlled or that were unoccupied but claimed by Hanoi.

Yet perhaps sensing an American reluctance to confront China in the South China Sea, Vietnam has declined to take China to international court, as the Philippines did, even as the Chinese have turned disputed reefs and sandbars into militarized islands.

Chinese pressure continues, despite the United States’ supplying the Vietnamese Coast Guard with a cutter and new patrol boats.

This year, a Spanish company with prospecting rights from Vietnam suspended drilling in an oil block off the coast of Vietnam. Beijing claims part of the waters as its own.

In 2014, the Chinese parked a state-owned oil rig off Danang, where Mr. Trump attended the APEC summit meeting on Friday, in a forceful incursion into what Hanoi considers its territorial waters.

“Living next to China, which has ambitions to become the most powerful country in the world, is not easy,” said Vo Van Tao, a popular political blogger. “To lower the heat, Vietnam needs to withdraw from areas that belong to Vietnam.”

Grand strategy is beyond the worldview of Vietnamese like Do Van Duc. In 1979, he was stationed on the border with China, as part of an antiaircraft artillery unit, when hundreds of thousands of People’s Liberation Army soldiers from China flooded south.

The Vietnamese, while outmanned, put up an unexpectedly robust defense. Within a month, the Chinese, professing that they had taught the Vietnamese a lesson for interfering in regional geopolitics, withdrew.

During the war with China, Mr. Duc was only 17 years old, but he came to understand one thing then that today, as a security guard living in Hanoi, he said he still clings to.

“We cannot trust the Chinese,” he said. “They are our ancient enemy, and that will not change.”

Philippine Navy at fault in death of 2 Vietnamese fishermen, probe finds

October 1, 2017
Investigators cited a 1999 ruling of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea as it found that the Philippine Navy was at fault for the deaths of the Vietnamese fishermen, a source told Vera FIles. The ITLOS ruling states that: “In the conduct of arrest, use of excessive and unreasonable force in stopping and arresting a vessel such as firing with live ammunition using shots from large–caliber automatic guns must be avoided, and where force is unavoidable, it must not go beyond what is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.”  Vera Files

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy is at fault in the death of two fishermen during a sea chase in the waters of Pangasinan on September 22, a source privy to the investigation of the incident said.

Investigators, the source said, cited a 1999 ruling of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) that states: “In the conduct of arrest, use of excessive and unreasonable force in stopping and arresting a vessel such as firing with live ammunition using shots from large–caliber automatic guns must be avoided, and where force is unavoidable, it must not go beyond what is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.”

READ: 2 Vietnamese dead, 5 arrested in chase with Philippine Navy

The Philippine Coast Guard, which is investigating the incident, took note that the incident happened 39 nautical miles off Bolinao in Pangasinan, which was within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines, the source further said.

“Under the Law of the Sea Convention, in the EEZ, the Philippines does not have Sovereignty but only Sovereign Rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources found therein. This means that the Philippines cannot enforce its laws including the Revised Penal Code except only its laws and regulations relating to fisheries and marine environmental protection,” explained the source.

The Philippine Navy announced September 26 that the officers involved in the incident were relieved as the Department of Foreign Affairs assured Vietnam a fair and thorough investigation into the deaths.

“We would like to offer our sympathies over the unfortunate loss of life and give you our assurance that we will conduct a fair and thorough investigation into this matter,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.

READ: Philippines to probe death of 2 Vietnamese fishermen in sea chase

The VERA Files source said based on the interview with the Vietnamese fishing boat captain, at about 11 in the evening on September 22, while the Vietnamese fishing boat was anchored 39 nautical miles off Bolinao, an unidentified vessel sailed towards their direction. Immediately, they cut their anchor net and scampered away towards the direction of Vietnam because they were afraid the approaching vessel was a pirates’ ship.

The Vietnamese heard 10 gunshots fired towards both sides of their fishing boat. It was only after a 30-minute chase, when the pursuing vessel was approximately three to five meters away that it was identified as the BRP Miguel Malvar (PS 19).

“At that very near distance, the PN vessel continued to fire at fishing boat killing two of the six crew who were hiding inside the cargo hold area located at the forward portion of the boat. The Navy officers arrested the remaining fishermen for poaching and brought them to Sual in Pangasinan,” the source said.

A photo of the BRP Miguel Malvar. Vera Files

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said it is too early to decide whether the Philippine Navy may be sanctioned.

“Whether or not the use of deadly force is justified is a separate question,” he told VERA Files in an interview. “That is supposed to be determined in the investigation,” he added, noting that whether disciplinary actions will be taken against those who fired is separate from poaching.

However, lawyer Romel Bagares, executive director of the Center for International Law, pointed out that the Philippine crew, all state agents, are covered by state immunity.

A case, he said, “may only be proceeded against in a criminal procedure by a Philippine court, unless the Philippines has expressly waived such immunity in favor of a Vietnamese court.”

Bagares added: “The Philippines has the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to do so under established international law.”

“If the Philippines imposes an unreasonable bond for the prompt release of ship and crew and refuses to pay reparations for the two deaths, Vietnam may file the appropriate action before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea,” Bagares said.

What the Navy did as part of its law enforcement was “justified,” as it happened within the 200-nautical mile EEZ of the Philippines, Batongbacal maintained.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has sovereign rights on its 200 nautical mile EEZ, where the country has exclusive rights to “explore and exploit natural resources” found in the area.

“Any foreign vessel that is found fishing in the (EEZ) is considered to be committing the crime of poaching,” Batongbacal said.

Although sovereign rights are “less than sovereignty,” as Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had earlier said, they retain a country’s exclusive and superior rights above other states.

Sovereignty bestows full rights on a country within the 12-nautical mile stretch of its territorial waters measured from the baseline. Beyond it is the EEZ governed by the Philippines’ sovereign rights, which give power for a country to take measures like arresting vessels and their crews under Article 73 of UNCLOS.

But this distinction is beside the point, Batongbacal said. As far as the law is concerned, the Vietnamese fishermen violated the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, he added.

Under Section 87 of the law, it is unlawful for foreign entities to operate their fishing vessels in Philippine waters. Any entry shall already constitute a prima facie evidence.

“The law already presumes them to be engaged in poaching. It’s the Vietnamese who must show proof that they were not fishing,” Batongbacal said.

The law penalizes offenders with a fine not exceeding $100,000, or P5,093,400, and confiscation of the catch, fishing paraphernalia and vessel.

The VERA Files source, however, said it would be difficult to establish and prove that the Vietnamese fishermen committed poaching because there are circumstances that must first be met before a foreign vessel’s activity can be considered poaching.

Vietnam is an ally of the Philippines, notably when it supported its position against China before the Arbitral Tribunal, which later ruled China’s claim to resources in the South China Sea had no legal basis and its nine-dash line invalid.

In 2015, the Philippines signed a strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam that reaffirmed “their commitment to resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means.”

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, former maritime officer, said in a September 26 press release the incident happened because of the absence of a clear direction in handling the maritime situation.

It “gives us a picture of the dangers and tension in the area amid territorial disputes and competition over resources,” he said.

He called on the administration to come up with a strategy that would provide policies and guide actions for all stakeholders, especially the fishermen.

___

VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/10/01/1744485/philippine-navy-fault-death-2-vietnamese-fishermen-probe-finds

2 Vietnamese fishermen killed in South China Sea incident with the Philippine Navy

September 24, 2017

5 other Vietnamese fishermen are arrested off the coast of Bolinao, Pangasinan

Published 5:45 PM, September 24, 2017
Updated 8:25 PM, September 24, 2017
ILLEGAL FISHING? Two Vietnamese fisherman were killed while 5 others were arrested on Saturday, September 23, some 60 nautical miles off the coast of Bolinao, Pangasinan.

ILLEGAL FISHING? Two Vietnamese fisherman were killed while 5 others were arrested on Saturday, September 23, some 60 nautical miles off the coast of Bolinao, Pangasinan.

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Two Vietnamese fishermen were killed while 5 others were arrested on Saturday, September 23, in an incident with the Philippine Navy in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Rappler learned.

Lieutenant Jose Covarrubias, spokesman of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon, said the bodies of the two Vietnamese nationals were found aboard a foreign fishing vessel that trespassed into Philippine waters to illegally fish inside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The incident happened about 34 nautical miles from the town of Bolinao in Pangasinan. Covarrubias said the fishermen were using strong lights to lure fish.

Covarrubias did not give further details on the deaths of the Vietnamese nationals. He said the 5 others who were found on the same fishing vessel were arrested and turned over to the local police.

Sources said a Philippine Navy vessel was moving towards the Vietnamese fishing vessel to arrest the fishermen at about 2 am on Saturday when a chase ensued. The Vietnamese fishing boat reportedly rammed the Philippine Navy vessel.

It is not clear how the two Vietnamese died but initial reports indicate an exchange of gunfire. Covarrubias said they are verifying the information.

Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado told Rappler that he has ordered an investigation into what happened.

Covarrubias said the Philippine Navy and the Philippine National Police are conducting a joint probe. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/nation/183206-vietnamese-fishermen-killed-west-philippine-sea-south-china-sea

People in the Philippines Ask Nagging Questions on China

August 27, 2017

By  – @inquirerdotnet

 / 05:16 AM August 26, 2017

Question: What is the similarity between China and the Caloocan police?

Answer: China claimed that it had stopped reclamation work on the disputed islands in the South China Sea since 2015 (Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano supported the claim); the Caloocan police claimed that Kian delos Santos was shot and killed because he shot at them first. Both claims were belied by pictures: In China’s case, satellite images showed its reclamation activities in late 2016; in the Caloocan case, CCTV footage showed the policemen dragging Kian off…

In short, both are bare-faced liars, caught red-handed by modern-day technology.

Q: How far do Filipinos trust China vs. America?

A: The Social Weather Stations survey in September 2016 showed that Filipinos trusted America the most (+66) and China the least (-33), among the countries surveyed. The SWS also reported that since 1994, when the question was first asked, America has always showed positive ratings, its lowest being +18 and its highest +82; China has showed positive trust ratings only 7 times out of 40, and its highest trust rating was +17 (lower than America’s lowest), while its lowest was -46.

In short, Filipinos don’t trust China any further than they can throw it (and China, a giant, can’t be thrown very far).

Q: So why does President Duterte trust China so much and distrust America?

A: No hard evidence on which to base an answer. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told me in an interview (you can catch it on Monday) that the President “listens.” Well, yes, he “listened” to the outraged cry against Kian’s murder, but he obviously hasn’t “listened” to the Filipino distrust of China (Filipinos have dealt with Chinese since pre-Hispanic times).

All these make up background for the current issue relating to China’s bare-faced lies or its treachery vis-à-vis the Philippines, which are well-documented in Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s book, “The South China Sea Disputes” (downloadable, free).

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While vowing eternal friendship with us and offering billions of dollars in “aid” (we should look that gift horse in the mouth, given the offerer’s predilection for mendacity), China has sent two frigates (warships), a coast guard vessel and two militia maritime fishing boats, to guard Sandy Cay (which is Philippine territory, being within 12 nautical miles from Pagasa). Moreover, it has prevented a Philippine government vessel from approaching.

Q: Why should Filipinos be worried?

A: Because it is the same strategy that China employed to gain control of Scarborough Shoal (Panacot, Bajo de Masinloc) off Zambales in 2012. More, after the United States brokered a deal under which Chinese and Philippine ships were to leave the area, China reneged on what it had agreed to; the Philippines left, in good faith. Nadenggoy tayo. Which is why we went to The Hague, and won our case.

The effect of Sandy Cay’s occupation by China is enormous, according to Justice Carpio. It will reduce Pagasa’s territorial sea by a third or more, and it will prevent us from claiming Subi Reef. “By any yardstick, this is a seizure of Philippine territory.” And he demanded that the Philippines take active diplomatic and legal measures on record.

Q: What is the Duterte administration doing about it?

A: The reaction is such that one would think it was lawyering for China. To wit: 1) What ships? (It denied their existence, although they were caught on satellite); 2) The ships are just exercising the right of innocent passage. (Carpio: Innocent passage requires no stopping, or loitering. The ships have been there since Aug. 12—again caught on satellite); 3) AMTI-CSIS, the think tank that provided the pictures, is American, therefore it is there to promote US interests. (Me: What? Do we think they photoshopped the whole thing?); 4) We are not going to war over a sandbar. (Me: Nobody suggested going to war. Moreover, that sandbar, since it has high-tide elevation, is entitled to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea around it, more than twice the land area of Metro Manila).

And lastly, Q: This issue is one where we need the best and brightest to decide on strategy. Why isn’t Justice Carpio in the loop?

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/106634/nagging-questions-china#ixzz4qyo0e8JE
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Deepsea Metro I

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.